Slightly drunk…at the grocery store

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There I was, needing groceries and slightly drunk.  Let me preface anything further by saying that buying groceries while tipsy is akin to doing so while you’re ravenous.  In other words, you buy a lot of shit you don’t need.  But I’m willing to bet that most of you folks that follow this here blog know what that experience is like already.

Anyway, in my tipsy-buying everything I saw-state, I happened upon a little jewel of a snack that I wanted to share with you.  Yes, this healthy and fit post is about buying snack food while drunk.  You’re welcome.

I love potato chips.  I rarely buy them, because they aren’t healthy.  Guess what I didn’t care about when grocery shopping that day?  I was perusing the snack aisle (dangerous but I was all out of will power), and I saw sriracha potato chips.  I’m pretty sure the bag looked like this at the time

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all mysterious and glowing (but probably not).  So I bought them.

Why am I telling you this silliness?  Well my friends, the moral of this story is: sometimes it’s okay to be drunk at the grocery store and buy food that isn’t good for you.  Because sometimes it’s delicious and worth it.  My new cheat snack.

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A Spicy Summer Salsa

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Summer is by far my favorite season.  A lot of people (in NC anyway) complain about the heat and humidity, and they are always wistfully thinking back to spring or wistfully looking forward to fall.  I like spring.  I like fall.  I LOVE summer.  Winter can go eff itself. 

One of the things I enjoy most about summer is its wonderful bounty of tomatoes, peppers, squashes, peaches, and so on.  And no matter what your favorite season if you like/eat tomatoes then you know they are effing amazing during the summer.  Like I will buy large containers of the delicious little guys at the grocery store every time I go shopping, whether I need them or not.  And then sometimes I end up with too many summer tomatoes (who knew that was possible?!).

One day, not too long ago…yesterday maybe…I looked at my basket o’ tomatoes and saw the very early stages of wrinkliness (my word processor is telling me that is not a word, but I choose to disagree) and decided they must be used quickly.  Well it just so happens that chips and salsa is a favorite snack in this house, so I thought “why not make a fresh homemade salsa!”  So I did a little research online and found that most recipes called for canned tomatoes.  I was a bit shocked honestly.  Many of the recipes said that it helped the texture of the salsa immensely to use the canned tomatoes.  Again, shocked.  Given what I’ve already mentioned about the wonderful flavor of fresh summer tomatoes, I was not 100% behind this recommendation.

While I had a good many tomatoes that required quick use before going bad, I didn’t have quite enough to make a big batch of salsa.  So I decided to grab a can of tomatoes with green chiles to add as a base for the salsa and work in the other fresh ingredients.  It turned out perfect.  I readily admit my folly at being shocked (and self-report snobbishness) about canned tomatoes in salsa. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 14.5 oz can of tomatoes with green chiles
  • 2 handfuls of fresh summer grape/cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 of one large onion sliced (I used a yellow onion, but I think red would be good too)
  • 1 jalapeno roughly chopped
  • 2 Tobago peppers** roughly chopped
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

** Tobago peppers are heat-less habanero peppers.  If you’ve never heard of them, I’m not surprised at all.  J and I found them at a farm in Pittsboro, NC and then bought a ton of them at the Abundance Foundation Pepper Festival last year (this year’s festival is right around the corner).  I saved some of the seeds from the peppers, dried them, and kept them until planting mid-spring.  I can’t believe how lucky I was at my first time saving and growing from seeds, but every small cup had seedlings growing out of them.  I currently have 5 Tobago pepper plants in our garden 🙂 

For this recipe, feel free to substitute regular habanero peppers with the seeds and ribs removed (removing the seeds and ribs doesn’t mean this won’t be spicy though, so be careful) or simply add a bit more jalapeno.  Otherwise you could add in some bell pepper or poblano to keep your salsa on the milder side.

 

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In a food processor add the canned tomatoes and chiles, onion, peppers, fresh tomatoes, cilantro, juice of one lime and salt and pepper.

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I like restaurant style salsa, so I pureed it until smooth.  If you’re a fan of chunky salsa, then just pulse the ingredients until you reach the consistency you want.

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And you are done!  It literally takes maybe 5 minutes to make and is better than store bought.  Plus – no preservatives.  Boom.

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Enjoy!!

~E

It’s Just the Beginning

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Hello dear friends!  Yes, this is an actual post about food and drinking.  FINALLY.  It only took me a couple of months and deleting apps off of my phone to hunker down and do it.  But hey, here we are.

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So I told you that J and I moved into our new home in May.  Well, I decided I needed a garden.  I also decided this far too early in the moving process, but we did it anyway.  So before one month had gone by I had started my very first “I own my own home so I’m going to have a garden” garden.  And J made the border for it for me.  See the pics below in stages, the last picture having been taken one week ago.

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I am growing strawflowers and mexican sunflowers to detract pests and birds (they are the larger plants on each end of the garden), red malabar spinach (on the trellis), bee balm, red bell peppers, gypsy peppers, jalapeno peppers, Tobago habanero peppers, scallions, garlic chives, sage, rosemary, thyme, and parsley.  Not too shabby for my first go round.  I have big aspirations for next year’s garden 🙂

About a week after planting my garden, I was a bridesmaid in one of my best friend’s weddings.  See the pic below; I’m the really happy one pouring champagne for everyone in the limo.  There’s nothing I love better than helping people get intoxicated…with me.

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And then after the wedding things began to calm down for us.  Hahahahahahaha…no, no it didn’t.  It’s ridiculous how many projects you can come up with once you move into a home.  And cooking may have gone by the wayside for me for short time during all of this.  Our lunches were sandwiches…yeah we had it rough…mesquite turkey and lomo americano.  If you’ve never had this before, please, please do.

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Okay, wait…I feel like I’m back to making excuses for my lack of posting.  Enough of this, let’s move onto some serious home cooked food.  More specifically let’s talk about smoked meat.

J and I are still novices with smoking our own meats, but let me tell you they are goooooood.  So far we’ve smoked a couple of pork shoulders and briskets, a turkey breast, Russet potatoes, and jalapeno poppers wrapped in bacon (yes, you read that correctly and they are insane).  Check out the brisket.  We made this for our housewarming party, and it was devoured and rightfully so.

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Here’s the pork shoulder, with rub pre-smoking.

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And I made more truffles!  This time I made them with Grand Marnier, coffee, and vanilla, and then I dusted them with some pink Australian sea salt.

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I have also taken a couple of photography courses.  The second class I just took this past weekend.  Here a few shots that the teacher help me to “tone.”

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I am very excited about what I’ve learned in the classes so that I can take better pictures to show off some stuff for you all 🙂

Okay, I realize this post is a bit all over the place, but I wanted you all to see what we’ve been up to.  I promise I left A LOT of pictures out so that I didn’t inundate everyone.  My next post will be more cohesive, with a recipe and the beers that we are currently enjoying (which is most beers actually, but you know what I’m saying).

I’m so glad to be back!!

Lies

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Okay so I lied to you.  It was not premeditated though, I swear.  I promise you that I had every intention of writing a super amazing blog post, approximately two days after my last post.  And then a lot of things happened.  I can make more excuses but don’t think that’s necessary, do you? 🙂 But I have made a decision that I’m implementing starting today: I am not allowed to do mind-numbing, trivial things (Facebook for example) if I have a blog post I want to write.  Unfortunately that’s what I found myself doing in my downtime instead of blogging, reading books, etc.  I don’t actually have very much downtime, but nonetheless I am officially tired of it.  I deactivated my twitter account (which wasn’t too tough for me since I hardly ever used it…or really knew how to use it), and I deleted the Instagram and Facebook apps from my phone.  I need less distractions in my life, and I want them gone so I can focus on the things I truly enjoy and that make me happy.

So with that being said, I’m currently drafting my next blog post about a few new things happening around the Wheeler household.  I’m going to talk about smoking meats (everyone [with a yard or grill area] should own a smoker…I’m not kidding), my garden!!!!!, photography classes I’ve been taking, and more.

Talk to you in a few! 🙂

E

Excuses, excuses, excuses

I hate that I’ve let my favorite activity fall by the wayside the past couple months, but I promise I had a good reason!  Joseph and I bought our first home at the beginning of May.  So we’ve been living in disheveled mayhem for a month or so prior to the move and then a month or so after the move.  Things are finally calming down 🙂 So I wanted to give you all a heads up that my first blog post in a while will be hot off the presses in a couple of days.  Even though I haven’t been on here blogging, I’ve still been cooking and taking A LOT of pictures.  So I’ll be sharing quite a bit with you!  Can’t wait!!!

Treat Yourself to Truffles

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When it comes to eating chocolate, I follow a philosophy that is similar to my bacon philosophy: when I am going to eat it, I’m going to eat the real, indulgent thing.  When it’s chocolate time, it’s serious chocolate time…albeit in moderation.  That’s the slightly unfortunate part, but I would prefer to eat a small amount of one of my favorite things than to eat a lot of a less delicious version.  So for example, I do not want turkey bacon EVER.  If I’m going to eat bacon, I’m going to eat effing bacon.  That being said, these truffles are not “healthy.” Keep consumption in moderation and you don’t need to feel bad about eating them.  There aren’t a ton of ingredients but buy good quality ones.

I have been a subscriber to fellow blogger Fresh and Foodie for quite some time, and she recently posted a recipe for some truffles that piqued my interest. Take one guess why…yes, beer was involved.  She used a chili-chocolate stout, so I asked Joseph if he could find one.  He came home with one chocolate stout and one chili beer.  So here is my take on her recipe using a mixture of beers and a slightly different cocoa dusting.

While Joseph was out shopping for beers, I went to Whole Foods to buy the chocolate, heavy cream, and cocoa powder.  Bobbi’s recipe didn’t call for dark chocolate cocoa powder, but that’s what I bought.  I ❤ dark chocolate everything.  I did buy the chocolate as her recipe recommended: 1/2 lb bittersweet and 1/2 lb semisweet.

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Here is another gratuitous chocolate picture, just because.  Pretty ain’t it?

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Then I roughly chopped the beautiful chocolates.

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In a medium saucepan, I warmed up 1 cup of heavy cream until small bubbles began to form at the top of the liquid.  At that point you can take the cream off the heat and fold in the chopped chocolate.

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Keep stirring until smooth.

Then pour in 4 tablespoons of beer.  Since we were mixing two beers, we thought it was best to “sample” a few different ratios of the mixed beer.  It’s a difficult life we lead, I tell ya.  In the end we went with 2 1/2 tablespoons of chocolate stout and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the chili beer.  After all was said and done I wish that we had done a bit more chili beer, because it didn’t come through as much as I thought it would.  So if you don’t like spicy, keep the ratios as we did them.

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Then pour the mixture in a dish that it will be easy to scoop them out of later.  I used a square baking dish.

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Then loosely cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  I let it set overnight.  The next day I used a small ice cream scoop (or cookie scoop) to get bite size truffles.  I put them on a wax paper lined baking sheet and popped them back in the fridge while I prepared the cocoa dusting mixture.

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For the dusting mixture, I used about 1/2 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne.  Again, if you don’t like spicy I would recommended lowering the cayenne or leaving it out altogether. But it’s soooo good 🙂

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They aren’t the prettiest truffles I’ve seen, but they are ridiculously good.  My mom (a chocolate connoisseur – okay not really, but she loves chocolate) said they were some of the best truffles she’s ever eaten.  Boom.  So seriously, you need to make these.  And thanks to Fresh and Foodie for the recipe!

Immunity Soup

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What’s the saying…”feed a cold, starve a fever” or something like that?  Maybe it’s vice versa, but either way nothing is better when you have a cold than a bowl of steamy and warm soup.  On top of that, it snowed here in Raleigh last week while I was in the throws of battling my cold.  It hardly ever snows in here, and by most definitions (Northern definitions) we didn’t really get any snow.  But our 1.42 inches of snow was pretty while it lasted. Here are some pics of the sunset the day the snow storm ended.

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Anyway, with my cold raging and the blizzard of over an inch hitting us, I decided to research some soup recipes.  I wanted to make something that would be make me feel better and warm me up.  Well, believe it or not there are actually recipes out there for “immunity soups.”  I even found one in a cookbook I received as a gift from my mother-in-law last year.  So I decided to give it a whirl but with some of my twists.

Apparently the key ingredient to immunity soups is astragalus root.  Doesn’t that sound tasty? 😛  No, I know it doesn’t but read about it.  When I read “significant age-reversal effect on the immune system” I was sold on at least trying it.  I went straight to Whole Foods (because obviously they sell anything/everything healthy) and…no astragalus root.  But they did have the extract in their Whole Body section.

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I did a quick internet search to make sure I could put this in a soup (without ruining the soup) and that it would still have it’s magical effects.  I really couldn’t find anything to say yay or nay, so I bought it anyway.  What’s the worst that could happen.  It’s not like it would kill me.  Oddly enough, while on the phone with my grandmother that night she literally said to me “well I hope it doesn’t kill you.”  Quite the jokester she is.

So here is what I made.

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The base of the soup was some stock from my freezer (I chose a chipotle veggie stock), then I threw in some veggies, some potatoes and turkey ham for substance, and fresh, peppery watercress.  First I sauteed some onion, garlic, and ginger (apparently garlic is a natural antibiotic and ginger is an anti-inflammatory).  Then I added carrots and red bell pepper.  I let them saute for a few minutes and then I added the stock.  Once that came to a boil, I added the potatoes and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.  Then I added the asparagus and bok choy.  I let that cook just until the asparagus and bok choy were done.  I had some leftover uncured turkey ham so I roasted that with a dusting of cayenne pepper – every immunity soup recipe called for a dash of cayenne.  After roasting I added that to the soup mixture as well.  I ladled some soup into my bowl and then added my astragalus root extract.  Then I topped it off with the watercress.  The extract did not ruin the soup at all.  In fact it was barely discernible from when I tasted the soup without it.  I never did add the extract to the entire pot.  Instead I added it to each bowl when I warmed up leftovers.

While I’m not entirely certain if the soup helped me get over my cold any more quickly than normal, the result was delicious.  And hey, it 100% helped me stay warm from the snowy blizzard outside.

Mideastern Fare and Beers from the Kegerator

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Yes, that’s right.  We have a kegerator now.  I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but we take beer seriously around here 😉 Joseph had been talking about getting a kegerator for quite some time, and I decided, with the help of our families, to make that finally happen for him this Christmas. It’s a beauty, ain’t it? Right now we have sixtels of Sweet Josie Brown Ale and a Belgian Noir.  While it was Joseph’s gift, I admit it is pretty amazing that we can pour fresh beers in the comfort of our home.

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Several of my Christmas gifts this year were cookbooks that I had asked for, one being a book on Middle Eastern Cuisine.  It’s called An Edible Mosaic and based on dinner last night, I highly recommend it.  More about that in a moment.  A little back story is necessary.

About 10 years ago my mother moved to Jacksonville, FL, and we quickly found a soon to be favorite restaurant called the Casbah Cafe.  This is where I learned that I love Middle Eastern food, specifically the dish Musakhan chicken.  I’ve grown to love many Mideastern dishes, but this one is still my #1.  I have tried A LOT of different recipes trying to replicate the Musakhan chicken wraps served at the Casbah to no avail.  I’ve gotten close a couple of times, but that’s it.  Close.  That is why I asked for this cookbook.  I saw a recipe for a Shawarma chicken wrap, and the picture in the cookbook appeared to be exactly what I was ordering at the Casbah.  So I obviously chose that as (one of) the first recipes I made from it.  Let’s get back to dinner last night now…

Spoiler – the Shawarma chicken was not even close to the Musakhan chicken I was hoping for, BUT it was REALLY good.  So while there was a slight tinge of disappointment, it quickly dissipated once the flavors happening in my mouth were fully realized.

So here was our spread:

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Can you see the kegerator in the background?  This picture sums up the evening pretty darn well.  Okay, now the specific dishes.

Another favorite dish of mine from the Casbah is their Arabic salad.  In the cookbook there was a recipe for a Middle Eastern salad.  They turned out to be basically the same, which is a major “hell yes” as far as I’m concerned.  It’s super easy to make too.  So if you like cucumber and tomato salads in general, you will really like this one.  What makes it different from the traditional cucumber and tomato salad is the lemon and mint.  It sounds odd, but just trust me on this.

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Next I made a garlicky potato dip.  It was also quite good, but it was a bit on the dry side.  Something to keep in mind the next time I make it.  The drizzle on top is cayenne pepper and olive oil.  Yum.

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To go with the potato dip I wanted to have the flatbreads with the thyme and sumac seasoning, buuuuuutttt I really didn’t want to make dough from scratch, let it rise, punch it down, bake it, etc.  I’m a bit lazy when it comes to baking with yeast.  So 🙂 I bought small whole wheat pitas.  Boom.  Then I made the thyme and sumac seasoning, mixed it with oil, slathered the tops of the pitas, and baked them for about 10 min.  This was the crowd favorite last night.  That seasoning was ridiculously tasty.  I think the picture does them justice as well.  Just look at them.

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When I told our dinner guests about the next dish I made, I received a few raised eyebrows.  Of course it’s reactions like this that make me think “challenge accepted.”  How does egg poached in a spicy tomato sauce sound to you?  If you said delicious, then you are correct.  Even my eyebrow raising guests liked it, and – might I add – cleaned their bowls.  A word of warning though; it’s very easy to overcook the eggs.  Or maybe it’s not and I just overcooked mine.  But I’d like to think it’s the former.

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Last but not least, the Shawarma chicken.  This dish required about 10 different spices to flavor the yogurt marinade for the chicken.  Totally worth it.  I already had all the spices on hand, but that’s due to the fact that I keep trying to perfect the Musakhan chicken recipe I adore.  Moral of the story – just get all the spices.  You’ll want to make more dishes like this once you try it and then you’ll already have them.

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It bears noting that both me and J agreed that we weren’t hungover this morning, when by all accounts of beer consumption last night we should have been.  We give credit to the spices in the food.  Obviously 😉 So that’s another reason to give Mideastern fare a try, right?

Enjoy!

A Day in the Eating Life of One Fit Drunk

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My ever so sweet husband recently advised me that I’ve been posting too many recipes and not talking enough about nutrition.  Fine Joseph.  Just so you all know, I love posting recipes and will often get on those tangents.  His idea for this post is for me to discuss a typical food day for me.  I’ve already mentioned that I tend to stay away from carbs in the evening, but I haven’t really gone into detail otherwise.  So here is an entirely possible (and likely) day in the eating life of one fit drunk:

Wake up

Drink approximately 2 cups of coffee while getting ready – I use raw sugar and unsweetened almond milk

Breakfast (carb it up)

*Preface – I usually bake muffins on the weekends for us to have for breakfasts for the week.  If I don’t have time for that we tend to go with Cliff Mojo bars.

One muffin

Fruit (right now we’re on a Satsuma tangerine kick)

Yogurt with granola – I LOVE the Brown Cow brand yogurts at Whole Foods.  I highly recommend them.  Also, we buy local granola at the store and add that.

Lunch

Lean protein with lots of veggies and usually more carbs

For example, this past week we have Cajun chicken sauteed with broccoli, red bell pepper, snow peas, and spinach over brown rice penne with a white wine, garlic, and butter sauce.  The sauce sounds decadent because of the butter, but it’s really not.  It just tastes like it.  I only use a small pad of butter, and the Cajun seasoning, white wine, and garlic do the rest.

Mid-afternoon Snack

Usually kale chips, dark chocolate, peanuts, or popcorn.

Dinner

This meal is almost always protein and veggies.  That’s it.  Like I said in a previous post, I sometimes have carbs at night but rarely.

For example, baked chicken sausages (Whole Foods carries several variations of these: roasted garlic and red bell pepper, hot italian, chicken chorizo, etc) over a bountiful salad.  We also rarely use salad dressing.  That is where most of the fat comes from in a salad and usually the juices from the meat you cooked will add enough flavor and moisture.  We have also been known to squeeze fresh lemon juice over a salad or use hot sauce.

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I ALWAYS have a beer or two with dinner.  ALWAYS.

After Dinner Snack

I don’t always have an after dinner snack, but sometimes you just need a little something else.  I’m not a huge sweets person, but I do love me some pretzel M&Ms.  Or popcorn.  Or peanuts.  I definitely limit what I consume post dinner though.

I ALWAYS have a beer or 4 after dinner.  Well, almost always.  I don’t usually limit myself here.  Remember, that’s what working out is for 🙂

Smoky Pumpkin Soup

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Joseph and I were so lucky to be given one of the last pumpkins of the season from our wonderful friend’s bountiful garden.  Honestly there is not a better time of year than right now with which to experiment with pumpkin recipes, and the pumpkin soup I’m about to tell you about was killer.  Let me start off my saying, I’m not a huge fan of sweet foods in my meals.  Sweet food to me = dessert.  Therefore pumpkin, sweet potato, butternut squash, etc. are few and far between on the menu in my kitchen.  What I have found that I like is spicing up those types of sweet foods to give them a smoky flavor.  Cumin and cayenne are my best friends when I’m making anything with those ingredients.  Even if you aren’t a fan of spicy food, you can use just a smidge of those two (maybe a little more than a smidge of cumin since it’s not a “hot” spice) to create a well developed flavor that balances the natural sweetness.

I took step by step photos of this soup, because (I thought it was gorgeous) I didn’t measure out ingredients.  So you can see what it’s supposed to look like as you progress with the recipe.  Seriously don’t be scared because you don’t know exact amounts of each ingredient.  It’s a really simple soup.  Trust me.

First you must roast the pumpkin (or buy canned pumpkin, but this is more fun).  I preheated my oven to 375 degrees, halved the pumpkin and scooped out the strings and seeds, then drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

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Then I roasted the pumpkin for about an hour (until it’s fork tender).

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Then you let it cool and scoop out the pumpkin flesh.  I only needed about half of this pumpkin for this soup.  The rest I put in a container and in the freezer for a later use.

I’m going to sound like a broken record, but yes I started with browning some bacon 🙂 I promise I don’t use bacon in every soup I make, but it’s essential in this one lending more of the smoky flavor I was going for.  So brown up a couple of slices of bacon and remove to a paper towel lined plate.  Remove all but one tablespoon or so of bacon drippings and then throw in some diced onion and carrot.  Cook until softened and then add the roasted pumpkin, a few cloves of chopped garlic, and a bay leaf.

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Let it cook down for a few minutes.

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Add about a cup of dry white wine and enough stock to completely cover everything.

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Then I lowered the temperature and let the soup simmer, covered, for about an hour.  Remove the bay leaf and immersion blend it.

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Pour in a couple of swirls of cream.

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Stir to combine.

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And of course top it with bacon and serve over greens.

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It doesn’t hurt to serve it with cumin and cayenne dusted crackers and a triple cream brie 😉

Yes this was a dinner, and yes I ate some crackers.  Moderation friends.  It’s all about moderation.

Enjoy!